As part of government efforts to develop a system to track a burgeoning number of low flying small commercial drones, the Department of Homeland Security is supporting the development of technology that could help distinguish friendly from potentially unfriendly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
With support from the DHS Science and Technology branch, the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing the Urban Counter-UAS Operational Prototype (UCOP), which will be connected to the UAS Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system through an interface. The UCOP will look at flight information and determine if a drone isn’t registered with the UTM.
“If you have 11 drones in the air, but UTM only has 10 of them registered, we can look further at what the 11th drone is doing,” Jeff Randorf, an engineering adviser with DHS S&T, said in a statement. “We’ll be able to query who is flying and find out specifics that support the interests of Homeland Security and the rest of the homeland security enterprise.”
MIT says the UCOP will “enable testing and development of counter-UAS technologies in urban environments.”
Under recent authorities, DHS S&T is charged with developing and testing technologies to counter UAS systems in the national airspace. The department is putting together a program for testing of counter drone systems this year and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration on where those evaluations will take place.
The same new authorities that allow DHS S&T to do the counter UAS testing also allow DHS and the Department of Justice to use technologies to mitigate or defeat the threat of drones around certain assets.
The UCOP system includes an integration laboratory on Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, as well as local urban test sites and “targeted regional prototypes,” MIT says.
In operation, the UCOP will interface with the UTM through a UAS Service Supplier (USS), which will allow drone operators to essentially file a flight plan or “flight intent” and then receive authorization from the FAA for access to specific airspace access.
Authorization to fly in controlled airspace near airports will be granted in real-time or near-real time through the Low Altitude Authorization Notification Capability that the FAA is developing with the private sector.